Laura Lippman does not feel bad about her neck. Like, at all. In fact, she writes in My Life as a Villainess, “I have decided, at the age of 60, that I am a goddamn knockout.” She is, objectively, but that statement’s about more than her appealing physical self; it’s a celebration of finally shedding decades of societally induced self-consciousness about food and her body. The essay in which it resides, “The Whole 60,” with its “positivity, damn it” vibe, is a fitting kickoff to a smart, thoughtful, sometimes vulnerable, always witty collection of essays. Some are new, some previously published, and together they offer an overview of a very special life so far.
Lippman is aware of and thankful for said specialness, and she acknowledges her good fortune often. She adores her brilliant cultural-phenomenon-creator husband, David Simon, known for TV shows “The Wire” and “Treme,” et al. She loves her charming 10-year-old, who made Lippman a mom at 50; is fiercely grateful for a dazzling nanny named Yaya; and treasures her friends, even if she’s pretty sure she isn’t such a great friend to them sometimes.
Before she was known for her critically lauded crime novels (her Tess Monaghan series, 12 books and counting, plus 10 standalones), Lippman was a newspaper reporter for 20 years. In “Waco Kid,” she writes of her early career struggles as a newly minted reporter adjusting to the alien Texas landscape, aghast at endemic racism but also thrilled at her burgeoning love of movies. Her later years as a reporter in her beloved city of Baltimore honed her prodigious writing and editing skills, but she’s still pissed that her growing off-the-clock career as a novelist was held against her (as opposed to male colleagues, who were praised for similar endeavors). In “Game of Crones,” she’s hilariously ticked off about menopause, too, and drops trash-talk and name-drop tidbits here and there like so many tasty, snappy breadcrumbs. There’s also a lovely remembrance of Anthony Bourdain (“Fine Bromance”) and a paean to a double boiler (“Revered Ware”), a cookware-as-tribute to her late father, who was also a journalist.
With its “gleefully honest” hits of humor and willingness to take a close look at some discomfiting truths, it will come as no surprise to Lippman’s fans that My Life as a Villainess is an engaging read—an intrepid investigation of the author’s inner landscape and a raucous, no-holds-barred visit with that friend you admire for her candor, passion and unabashed nostalgia for 1980s fashion.